What are some recommendations for relocating or pruning plants that are crowded?


I’m looking for guidance on space management. We have a threadleaf falsecypress, planted in 2017, which is now 7-8′ tall and 6-7′ wide. It’s crowding two tom thumb cotoneasters, three false indigos and a viburnum that were all planted at the same time. Can the falsecypress be pruned? If so, how best is that done? Can any of the other plants be relocated successfully? I’ve read that the false indigo is hard to move due to its rooting. 


Liz Stanley, Horticulture Community Education Assistant  

Most gardeners place young plants too close together. (I’ve made the same mistake many times!) It’s hard to visualize their mature size when small.

The false cypress Chamaecyparis pisifera is a beautiful focal point and would be very hard to transplant without damage. It’s not advisable to prune or shear them since you’d lose the unique draping needles that make this plant so special. (It’s always fine to remove dead, dying or damaged branches.) So I would leave it where it is and enjoy its unique form and color.

Baptesia australis has a very tough root system that will grow and compete with the tree for root space, water and nutrients. To transplant, a very sharp shovel will help cut the roots more easily. (Use a flat file to make a beveled edge on the convex side of the blade.) A root saw and a pry bar may also be helpful. Be sure to have a place ready for the plant to minimize transplant shock. It will not look great this season but next year it will probably be fine if planted in the right place in good soil. If there’s substantial wilt after a few days, cut it halfway back. Keep it watered deeply once a week but avoid keeping it wet. Hold on fertilizer.

Viburnums (especially native species) are durable plants. Again, have a place ready to receive the plant, even if it’s a temporary nursery area in your vegetable garden. Most transplanting is best done on an overcast or drizzly day to prevent stress. Avoid fertilizer until next year (if needed).

Cotoneaster apaculatus should be relatively easy to transplant. You can cut these back so there’s a good ratio between the roots and the above ground part of the plant. Handle as above when transplanting, though this is not as delicate.

It looks like you also have some anemones near the chamaecyparis. Herbaceous perennials are less likely to interfere with the tree, but see what happens when you take your wire cage off. At least they’re easier to move than the others.

More here: Selecting, Planting and Caring for Trees and Shrubs in the Maine Landscape.